What do the Alfond Center for Health and the Cony Rams football team have in common? They make me proud to live in Augusta.

Not that I was ashamed before, but our splendid new hospital and state championship football team have put a shine and a twinkle on this old city, and I like it.

I went up to the hospital a few weeks ago to have some minor surgery on my hand. My husband, Paul, drove me over, as I wouldn’t be able to drive home with a bandage the size of a catcher’s mitt on my right paw. We arrived early so we could have a look around — and we were wowed.

The hillside setting, the soaring windows, the expansive terrace and landscaping, the use of soothing earth tones and neutrals throughout announced this was no ordinary hospital. Then I started noticing how many spacious areas there were for families and friends to sit while loved ones were seen by doctors or underwent procedures.

The waiting room outside the surgical area was a far cry from the one at the old hospital. When I’d had carpal tunnel surgery there, poor Paul had to wait in a crowded, uncomfortable room with a TV blaring some stupid show. This room featured a flat-screen TV that played a loop of New Age music and images.

I was taken into a small, private chamber to await my surgery. I could watch the goings-on through the glass door or have a bamboo curtain pulled for privacy. If I wanted, I could watch TV as I waited. I opted for a cat nap.

My surgery was in a compact operating room, and I was only the second patient to use it. That might have scared me if my procedure had been more complicated; I just felt special.

I could have hung out at the hospital for a few more hours, perhaps sipping a coffee and munching on organic snacks in the cafe. But I really needed to get home before the anesthetic wore off.

As I lay on the sofa with my arm raised to prevent swelling, drowsy from pain medication, the term “world class” crossed my mind. I know I shouldn’t rate a hospital on appearances, but, really, as looks go, this place is a beauty. My brief experience stayed in my mind for several days. Not the dulled sensation of a scalpel slicing into my palm, but the image of this new, lovely, architecturally pleasing location in my community.

Perhaps it is because our city fathers over the years have let so many handsome buildings come down, only to be replaced by mundane or even ugly boxes, that the rising of the Alfond Center for Health is so glorious.

I do work in another well-designed building, the Cony High and Middle School. I get a warm feeling every day as I walk into the spacious and airy library, with tall windows overlooking a Zen-like, stone-filled courtyard. My previous workplace was a library the size of a shoe box at Hodgkins Middle School, where poor ventilation gave me headaches daily. Good aesthetics do have a profound effect on human happiness.

So does winning. Football is my least favorite sport. I have never followed the Cony team, just wished the players who visited the library on Fridays good luck at their games. But as I realized they were winning many games this season, my interest was piqued. I knew the team hadn’t won a state title since I’ve lived in the city (25 years), but I didn’t realize the last time was in 1932. I was 11 when the Red Sox played their “Impossible Dream” season. I love a good rags-to-riches story.

In fact, I was even excited about watching the game. I don’t think I’ve watched a football game since high school, as my alma mater, Providence College, is better known for basketball and hockey. But there I was, sucked right in, moaning and groaning, cheering, nearly crying with despair and then jumping up and down, hooting, and running upstairs to tell Paul, who’d gone to bed, “They won, they won!”

It was my school, my students, but I also felt a tinge of gloating. So there, Kennebunk. Still think of us as “Disgusta?”

I love the Kennebec River Rail Trail, the Farmers’ Market at Mill Park, the new YMCA and even the new Goodwill. They all have contributed to making Augusta a more interesting and vibrant place than it was when Paul and I first moved here. When the Lithgow Public Library renovation and expansion is complete, I will be quite pleased with my adopted hometown. For now, I’m enjoying the feeling that this old city is shining and twinkling, and looking pretty darn good.

Liz Soares welcomes e-mail at [email protected]

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